CUCUTA -- The first round of humanitarian aid provided by the United States government to Venezuela was unveiled at the Tienditas Bridge in Colombia on Friday. It was stored only a few miles away from thousands of Venezuelans who desperately need it.
“We expect more to come,” U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker told reporters during a press conference at the bridge.
“This is a down payment. This is just the beginning. It’s important. It’s significant,” Whitaker said.
The aid includes some locally purchased food items and hygiene kits that could feed a family of five for 10 days; ready-to-use supplementary food (RUSF) supplies to feed about 10,000 children severely malnourished for up to two months; and temporary meal replacement biscuits that can feed up to 10,000 schoolchildren for a month.
Among the aid packages are also emergency medical kits containing life-saving medical supplies and pharmaceuticals that can be used at hospitals and community health centers.
“We know how we will bring it across, when we will bring it across and who will bring it across,” said Lester Toledo, a representative for Venezuela's interim president Juan Guaido.
Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called the provision of aid a "show" and a "message to humiliate the people."
“If you want to help, stop the blockade, persecution and aggression against Venezuela,” he added.
Maduro also said that if the U.S. really wanted to help, it would instead lift the over $10 million in sanctions that have been imposed on Maduro’s regime, calling it a robbery of money belonging to the Venezuelan people.
As Maduro addressed a crowd of journalists, Guaido was simultaneously speaking to a crowd of university students in Caracas about the opening of the collection center in Cucuta, saying that another two collection centers will soon open and calling for all Venezuelans to gather together over the weekend and organize to bring the aid into the country.
“We are not going to be deterred by the threats, or by the usurpation, or by fear,” Guaido said.
On Wednesday, one truck tank and two containers were set up at the Tienditas Bridge crossing between Venezuela and Colombia, where the aid is currently stored, blocking access to Venezuela.
Toledo called on Venezuela's military during a press conference to help get the aid across the Tienditas Bridge, saying that the medicine and food provided also belonged to them and their families.
All this took place as thousands of Venezuelans continued to journey across another bridge that connects Venezuela and Colombia. Some were leaving their country in hopes of finding a better life while others were simply visiting Colombia to buy items that they either could not afford or get access to in their home country, including food, medicine and other essentials, such as diapers and personal hygiene products.
Additional supplies are currently being stored at warehouses in Miami and Houston, ready to be deployed to the region immediately, according to a press release by USAID.